A peer-reviewed e-poster presented virtually at the 2022 Autism Europe Congress
. Note: this poster was also presented in person, in a different format.
Title: A school-based evaluation study of a teacher-delivered, whole-class neurodiversity teaching programme to promote accepting and inclusive environments
Authors: Alcorn, A. M. , McGeown, S. , Mandy, W. , Zahir, R. , Aitken, D. , Murray, F. , Peacock, L.J.J. , & Fletcher-Watson, S. 
 Salvesen Mindroom Research Centre, University of Edinburgh, UK
 Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh, UK
 Department of Clinical Psychology, University College London, UK
 Salvesen Mindroom Centre, UK
 Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh (AMASE), UK
 LEANS research team, UK
The wellbeing and participation of autistic school pupils suffers when teachers and peers have limited understanding and acceptance of their needs and experiences. The LEANS project has developed resources for mainstream primary schools to teach about neurodiversity, a higher-level concept covering many neurodevelopmental differences. The curriculum’s goals are to increase pupil and teacher understanding of neurodiversity and its impacts on school experience, and to promote inclusive actions and attitudes.
The LEANS resources were designed with a neurodiverse group of educators, and address 7 topics: introduction, classroom experiences, communication, needs and wants, fairness, friendship, and reflecting on our actions. They combine hands-on activities with storytelling and videos.
A school-based evaluation study assessed whether LEANS resources were feasible in real classrooms, and if they successfully taught neurodiversity concepts and changed pupils’ attitudes and intended actions. 7 teachers delivered LEANS in their classrooms, across 4 mainstream Scottish primaries (Aug-Dec 2021). Using opt-in recruitment, 62 children’s quizzes and demographics were shared with researchers (female=36, mean age 9.84 years). 17.74% of participants had reported additional support needs (e.g. formal diagnoses like ASC, undiagnosed challenges).
Teachers administered custom measures of neurodiversity knowledge and attitudes to their classes, before and after LEANS. Post-test scores showed that participating pupils demonstrated knowledge of the neurodiversity concepts contained in LEANS, and expressed more inclusive, accepting attitudes and intended classroom actions following LEANS participation, at statistically significant levels. This pattern applied to pupils both with and without reported neurodevelopmental diagnoses. Analyses were pre-registered.
Qualitative analyses of teacher diaries and child follow-up interviews are in progress and will be reported at the congress.
Per feedback and quiz scores, LEANS appears to be a successful tool for introducing neurodiversity in primary schools and promoting acceptance. It offers a basis for ongoing classroom discussion and facilitating longer-term changes. LEANS is free and available worldwide (June 2022). While initially tailored to the UK and Ireland, its resources form a transferrable model of the concepts and strategies needed to teach children aged 8-11 about neurodiversity at school.